So imagine my surprise to hear from Gill Hodgson of Flowers From The Farm that she had been informed there were Dutch bought flowers being put into the stand. I emailed everyone I could think to email at Interflora and got a message this morning from their Marketing Director that she was happy to speak. And here is the run down of the conversation.....
It seems the decision to go British was to link in with the RHS who at one point wanted a British theme to the Floral Marquee this year. But then the RHS changed their brief, Interflora realised they didn't really need to go the whole hog to use British flowers but just didn't bother to say they weren't going to. And my guess is they think they would have gotten away with it if it weren't for the beady eyes of those there!!
However, shocking and appalling as that is, it's the next bit that really got to me. This Director seemed quite adamant that the UK flower industry was not able to fulfil what she wanted for the stand. I asked which growers she had spoken to and it quickly became apparent that there had been one conversation with one wholesaler, and nothing else and that the flowers had been ordered only in the last few weeks, not months in advance as they ought to have been. Having spoken with Gill this morning, we now know that many if the required blooms are available, and that growers across the country have a huge array of other blooms ready and waiting. When this was questioned she asked me how I would feel if I were a bride and the flowers I had been promised or requested weren't available, to which I naturally replied I would trust my British florist to know what would be available and expect there to be substitutions due to our climate if and when necessary. But apparently this is not how Interflora work, which is no surprise in reality, but just very disappointing that they have leant nothing from the previous furore. No understanding of seasonality, or that dreaded word sustainable, and I doubt any thoughts for air miles or chemical footprints.
Interflora had asked me to write an article for their in house magazine, Mercury, and the original idea would be that off the back of the Chelsea stand I would explain to their florists why they should buy British where possible. But considering this exchange, their corporate stand that if they want it they shall have it and their total lack of real engagement with the amazing British growers across the country who are continuing the amazing fight to keep our cut flower business growing, I'm not going to write that article.
Instead I'm going to repledge my allegiance to the British flower farmers, growers and the florists who fight for them by using their blooms. And I'm going to ask you to do the same. If you're visiting Chelsea buy a British buttonhole to wear to the show. Ask the florists which blooms are British. Ask why they are not all and what Interflora are doing to support our blooming industry. And away from the show ground? Support them with your hard earned pound. Talk about them. Tell your friends and families about the way flowers are produced in South America and Africa and ask them to see flowers as a luxury item that you can't buy for a fiver with your weekly shop.
I guess what we take from this is that the fight must continue and it strikes me that whilst Chelsea is bringing horticulture to the fore in the next few days, we must shout loudly and be heard. Use social media, tweet @interflora, comment on their Facebook and join in with the #grownnotflown hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram!! Let's get this out there whilst we can. The British Flower Industry has resurrected itself, let's make sure its success continues.
British narcissi snapped at Common Farm Flowers! Beautiful, scented and UK grown.